Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

China defers New Zealand tourism event amid concerns of a diplomatic rift

China defers New Zealand tourism event amid concerns of a diplomatic rift

An Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai had to turn back to Auckland today after learning it had no authority to land in China.

The problem related to documentation from New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority which was included as part of Air New Zealand's application to allow the particular plane to land in China, the report said. The plane, which has not yet been confirmed, returned to Auckland about five hours after it took off and that it did not have permission from the Chinese authorities to land.

Sources say that officials in Beijing warned Air New Zealand to remove reference to any paperwork which suggested Taiwan was a state back in 2018, but someone forgot to do so.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has denied New Zealand's relationship with China has deteriorated under her government, following the latest bilateral "scheduling" difficulty.

The airline said on Monday that China denied the plane landing permission due to an administrative error.

Last August, Flight NZ289 was forced to return to Auckland less than an hour after taking off due to a possible technical issue which was later ruled out.

China's approach to Taiwan is well known, as is its strict approach to paperwork.

Air New Zealand did not immediately respond to further questions on the incident.

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Nevertheless, the Prime Minister told Mr Corbyn she looked forward to their teams meeting "as soon as possible". Mr Baker said the talks had been "constructive".

If National leader Simon Bridges really wants to convince us things would be different if he were Prime Minister, he should deliver a clear statement that he would support Huawei playing a major role in the 5G network, putting New Zealand at clear odds with the rest of the Five Eyes network.

Relations between China and New Zealand have been strained in recent months after New Zealand's spy agency in November halted mobile company Spark from using Huawei equipment in its planned 5G upgrade.

Ardern was scheduled to visit China early this year but the invitation has been put on hold.

On the other, if China wanted to demonstrate its power to cause considerable pain to a country resisting its expansion, while causing relatively little pain to its own economy, New Zealand could be an attractive target.

The same flight, NZ289, was turned back on a flight to China on August 24 previous year, although an airline spokeswoman said that was due to an engineering issue, not a permitting one.

"We've not received any communication of this nature", an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said at the time.

But it turned out during the flight that the aircraft operating did not have the appropriate approval.

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